Brown Says COVID Positivity Rate Must Decrease Before Schools Reopen

On Friday August 21, Gov. Kate Brown said K-12 students will not return to the classroom for in-person instruction unless the state can curb the spread of COVID-19.   

According to the Oregon Health Authority, 5.4 percent of tests performed are positive, indicating an infection rate of 50 per 100,000 state residents. Before the state’s schools can reopen, Brown and the OHA want to see a test positivity rate below 5 percent or an infection rate around 10 cases per 100,000.  

“Our infection rates are still too high to get all of our kids safely back in the classroom in most of our schools this fall,” Brown said during a press briefing on August 21. “To keep students, teachers and staff safe in schools across the state, we need to see a much more rapid decline in case numbers.”  

She said that the state currently sees 300 cases per day and the goal is to reduce that to 60 cases per day.  

If cases continue to decline at the current rate, Brown said it would likely take more than 200 days before schools are ready to reopen. She identified two ways the state can decrease the infection rate. The first is through improved voluntary compliance in mask wearing, physical distancing, and following all other safety guidelines.   

If voluntary compliance falls short, Brown indicated that the second way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is through increased business restrictions and travel restrictions for people entering or returning to the state. During the press briefing, she noted that she hesitates to implement increased restrictions due to the associated economic and personal toll. However, if the rate of infection doesn’t dramatically decrease this month, she may implement additional restrictions.   

Earlier this week a federal judge denied three Oregon Christian schools’ requests to reopen despite Brown’s executive order.   

Oregon Live reported U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman’s ruling: “In my view the religious institutions here in K-through-12 aren’t being treated in any way differently than public K-through-12 institutions.”